Tunnel-Digging as a Hobby (Aug, 1932)

Tunnel-Digging as a Hobby

ONE of the oddest hobbies in the world is that of Dr. H. G. Dyar, international authority on moths and butterflies of the Smithsonian Institution, who has found health and recreation in digging an amazing series of tunnels beneath his Washington home.

Almost a quarter of a mile of tunnels has been completed, lined with concrete. The deepest passage, illustrated in the accompanying diagram, extends 32 feet down.
Every bit of earth was removed unaided by Dr. Dyar, being carried out in pails. He found the tunnel-digging an appealing form of exercise to relieve the intense strain of his work day, which involved much close work with high-power microscopes.

The catacombs are constructed in three levels, with steps and iron pipe ladders leading between different tiers. The idea first came to Dr. Dyar when he sought to make an underground entrance to his furnace cellar.

  1. Stannous says: May 30, 20062:50 pm

    Wonder of it’s still down there and open, pretty neat idea if you live over bedrock or stable earth.
    You’d have to look up his address in the DC City Directories of the time to find his address.
    Anybody have access to the DC Main library?

  2. Boing Boing says: August 10, 200612:02 pm

    1932 article about egghead basement tunneler…

    Apropos of today’s story about Seymour Cray’s supposed subterranean proclivities, here’s what Charlie calls, “a 1932 Modern Mechanix article about Dr. H. G. Dyar who built tunnels (some extending 32 feet deep) beneath his house as a way to blow of…

  3. Robotech_Master says: August 10, 200612:19 pm

    From http://bahai-library.co…

    “During the 1920s Dyar’s most peculiar hobby came to light. When a truck fell into a labyrinth of tunnels near Dyar’s old home in 1924, newspaper speculation attributed these to World War I spy nests, Civil War trysts, and mad scientists. Eventually Dyar accepted responsibility for the tunnels and similar works behind his new home, saying he found relaxation in digging underground. The brick-walled tunnels extended for hundreds of feet and measured six by six feet.”

  4. Dave says: August 10, 20062:10 pm

    In 1928-29 lived at 804 B. Street, S.W. Washington, District of Columbia.

    I live in DC, im going to see if I can check this out.

    according to:

  5. Nicolai Brown says: August 10, 20064:11 pm

    That’s awesome! I admire his creativity.

  6. […] Link […]

  7. Don says: August 11, 20064:27 am

    Dyar’s former homesite appears now to be a federal office building across from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden:

  8. Avist says: August 11, 200611:13 pm

    I guarantee there was/is more to those tunnels than just being built for the sake of “releiving stress”…specificly if he was the only one building them

  9. blather » Blog Archive » underground says: August 18, 20062:02 pm

    […] Here’s an excellent piece from Modern Mechanix on tunnel digging as a hobby, as practiced by Dr. H.G. Dyar, international authority on butterflies and moths of the Smithsonian Institution. […]

  10. […] Modern Mechanix – Tunnel-Digging as a Hobby – In the 1930’s this guy was so obsessed with digging that he dug out three levels of catacombs under his home. […]

  11. Fantasist’s Scroll » Dig It! says: November 21, 20062:10 pm

    […] But, I’ve had a long-time obsession with things like steam tunnels, bomb shelters and other abandoned, underground structures. Not to the point of risking my life to explore them, but they’ve always fascinated me. Well, today’s Friday Fun Links are all brought to you via Boing Boing, and have an underground theme. First, there’s a giant, underground marijuana growing operation. Hey, if these guys can raise weed underground, maybe we can raise food crops and survive a nuclear war! Next, we have the urban legend that the infamous Seymour Cray, of Cray supercomputer fame, was a secret, compulsive tunneler. Sadly, this turns out to not be anywhere close to the truth, but it sure made a great story! The next link is to an actual, albiet less genius-like, tunneler in the UK. I mean, look at that guy in the picture. Doesn’t he look like the kind of guy who tunnel under the neighbors? And, finally, there’s the infinitely more upbeat and fun, Tunnel-Digging as a Hobby. The peppy 1932 copy and clean illustrations sure make it seem appealing, don’t they? […]

  12. […] Link […]

  13. Idlehacker - » Tunnel-Digging as a Hobby says: September 13, 20076:09 am

    […] modernmechanix.com […]

  14. dr who says: April 26, 20084:02 pm

    Check out the 140+ American Uunderground Bases, 1400 Worldwide they are called the “DUMB’s”. It stands for Deep Underground Military Bases. the united stats goverment above all cia , fbi and
    even nato/un,w.e , Are dealin with intense shit, aliens, since 1930s, constant conflict Actually
    since augest 1979 . U.S. sticks their fingers in so many candy jars 4 real

  15. DennisF says: March 12, 20096:14 pm

    I’m looking for metal or plastic tubings (aprox. 5’/6′ width) to attach and place in tunnel (its easier and cleaner to crawl through tunnel). Would appreciate any ideas..thanks

  16. JMyint says: March 12, 20096:46 pm

    Try Metal Culverts Inc. or W.H. Shurtleff both make curved structural plate for building large drain pipes.

  17. [email protected] says: April 24, 20112:55 pm

    Would love to meet someone with experience like that. Awesome hobby!!!

  18. someone says: June 23, 20117:52 am

    use pvc pipe

  19. probe says: October 10, 20128:19 am

    […] Tunnel Digging as a Hobby┬áModern Mechanics and Invention, August 1932 […]

  20. Odd hobby: Digging tunnels – smiling pockets says: November 13, 20128:48 pm

    […] Futility Closet; Modern Mechanix Share […]

  21. […] (source: http://blog.modernmecha…) […]

  22. John says: October 16, 20196:18 am

    There’s now a book available on Dyar and his tunnels https://www.smithsonian…

  23. […] don’t know if I’m allowed to reproduce this, but here you go (be sure to check out the Modern Mechanix website for more fascinating articles and back […]

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